Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Wulf Was Howlin' Today

WOW!!!! That pretty much sums up the results from the 4th Annual Wulfman’s CDT-14K Trail Race.  The race takes place on the Continental Divide Trail between Homestake and Pipestone Passes east of Butte, Montana.  Named in honor of John “The Wulfman” Wulf, the Godfather of Butte’s Piss & Moan Runners, the race is held each year on the Saturday closest to the summer solstice, the anniversary of The Wulfman’s final group run.

Run in opposite directions every other year, this year saw the race in the northbound direction between Pipestone and Homestake.  Although not considered a technical trail, the course makes up for it with a combination of climbs and altitude.  With a starting elevation of 1935 meters, the course rises almost 400 meters in a steady climb over the first 5.5 kilometers.  That leads to a series of ups and downs over the last 8.5 kilometers; but, with a net downhill to the finish at 1905 meters.

However, being a single track trail all the way – the race start has to be adjusted to accommodate the 214-person field.  Based on predicted times and consideration by the race director (Ray Hunt), the runners are seeded to go out on the course in 10-second intervals.  With the faster runner’s going out first, this allows all of the runner’s great access to the trail with very little needs for passing or other potential conflicts.

The 2009 running of this route was held in a cold, steady rain that made for some miserable racing conditions.  Not so this year.  Although a bit breezy in places – race day was cool and dry.  And, in spite of the massive amounts of snow through the winter and the rain this spring – the course was mostly dry and fast.  Just a couple of notoriously swampy spots held any mud.  And, none of those were bad enough to have a negative impact on the race.

The result – a spate of fast times with a rash of course records.  As with the race preview, we’ll start with the women’s event.  The race at the front of the pack fell together much like predicted.  Sarah Graves of Ballantine started the race 40 seconds ahead of co-favorite Michele Bazzanella of Butte.  Bazz got several glimpses of Sarah on some of the switchbacks on the course.  And, she gradually closed the gap ever so slightly throughout the race.  But, in the end, Sarah prevailed by a mere 23 seconds – 68:30 to 68:53.

It was a great race between the two.  Michele came into the race as defending champion; and, has proven herself over the last couple of years as a trail racing specialist.  Sarah made a great transition from the roads.  Having run 2:46:20 (and missing the Olympic Trials Marathon qualifying standard by a mere 20 seconds) at this year’s Eugene Marathon – she clearly has some wheels.  In the end, Sarah’s speed was just too much for Michelle’s trail acumen.

Making a big jump in performance was Beth Schumate of Clancy.  Moving up two spots from her 2010 5th place, Beth was just 37 seconds back of Bazz by the finish – after starting 90 seconds back.  That’s some big movement over the 14 Kilometers to get to the finish at 69:30.

The top 5 was rounded out by a couple of teenagers (but not strangers to the event).  Olivia Wood (16) of Anaconda moved up 3 spots with her 70:16; and, 18-year old Bekah Kirtley of Fromberg broke the 71 minute barrier with her 70:57.

The top 3 men finished in exactly the order in which they started.  Lynn Reynolds of Dillon and the U of M track and XC teams was out first.  But, Jimmy Grant of Missoula made a hard charge in the first 5 kilometers and was nipping at Lynn’s heels at the top of the switchbacks.  But, at that point, Lynn turned on the jets and blasted away from Jimmy for the win in 54:28.  Jimmy held on for a close second, just 35 seconds back in 55:03.  (Grant’s time of 55:03 bodes well for his projected attempt at a sub-2:30 marathon in 3 weeks at the Missoula Marathon.)

Both runners were under the old course record of 56:29 – set by Thomas “Big Bird” Jodoin in 2009 – and they were the first two runners to complete the course in under 56:00 (sub-4:00 per km).  The CR and the sub-56 prime normally would have earned Lynn a $150 cash prize bonus.  But, due to his collegiate eligibility and NCAA criteria, Lynn had to turn away the cash and settle for a round of applause and a hearty pat on the back.

Speaking of Big Bird, Thomas hung on for third in a fine time of 56:47 – just 18 seconds outside of his CR from 2 years ago.  He seemed to race well; but, Lynn and Jimmy were just too quick this day.  In 4th was Big Bird’s Vigilante Track Club Teammate Hunter Nelson of Helena at 57:15.  And, rounding out the top 5 was 48-year old Scott Creel of Bozeman in 57:29 (more on Scott below).

All in all, 7 guys ran under 1:00; and, it took a sub-62:30 to crack the top 10.  A big, big jump in the level of racing at this great event.

The master’s races were based on two criteria.  There were the traditional age-group results.  But, the primary awards were based on age-graded criteria.  In this format, your time is adjusted based on your age – trying to equalize your time against those of the younger, under-40 crowd.

For the women’s master’s – the age group ace was Nicole Hunt.  Her 77:45 was a solid run (good enough for 9th overall amongst the women).  What really makes it special is the fact that she is in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy – with twins no less!?!?!!?  Holy $&!#  It just proves – a stud is a stud is a stud.  Rounding out the top 5 in the 40+ division was Elizabeth Chura of Gallatin Gateway in 82:53, Wendy Ferris Schoonen of Butte (who turned 40 on race day) in 86:04.5, Marnie Johnson of Belgrade in 86:04.6; and, Christine Evans of Bozeman in 86:37.

But, the age-graded awards were “owned” by ageless Debbie Magilke of Billings.  A fixture on the Montana running and racing scene for over 35 years, Debbie was the 8th overall master in 88:41.  But, apply her age adjustment and she hit 65:58 – smashing the old age-graded record of 68:57 – and garnering her $75 in the process.

Following Debbie in the age-graded results were Sherry Vogel of Butte at 67:17, Elizabeth Chura of Gallatin Gateway in 69:47, Momma Hunt in 74:33; and, Marnie Johnson in 75:17.

The big fireworks for the master’s was definitely on the men’s side.  4 of the top 10 overall were of the over 40 ilk.  The top of the over 40 crowd was led by Scott Creel of Bozeman with an incredible 57:29.  Scott has been quiet on the racing scene the last couple of years.  But, with his impressive wins and course record at the Bridger Ridge Run, he established himself as one of the best trail runners in the state.  And, his February race at the Montana Men’s Master’s Mile showed he was back in the groove.

2nd behind Scott was Pat Judge of Helena, himself pulling in a sub one hour run with his 59:28 and 7th overall.  Mike Telling (Dillon) was 8th overall and 3rd Master with his 60:41.  Butte’s Jeff Braun was 4th master in 62:29 – also breaking into the top 10 overall.  Rounding out the top 5 over 40 was Paul Koch of Colorado Springs (and an old friend of Judge’s) with his 65:37.

But, it was the age graded results where Scott really blew things out of the water.  The old age graded record was 56:13 by Kirk Keller.  And, on the southbound course last year, Ray Hunt ran what was considered a stratospheric 53:48 age-graded.  Scott reached into a whole new level of the atmosphere………………………at 48 (to be 49 in just a few day) Scott’s time adjust to and incredible 51:21.  This resulted in prize money of $75 for the age graded record and another $75 for the 56:00 age graded prime.

The top 5 age graded looked a lot like the overall 40+ results.  Judge (41) at 56:08, Braun (47) at 56:16 and Telling (42) in 56:51.  Kirk Keller (at 52, the old northbound age graded record holder) cracked the adjusted top 5 with his 57:32.  In all 8 guys found their way under 1 hour with age adjusted times.  Pretty nifty running for some old guys.

The race clearly hit some new levels of competition and popularity.  With several new records being set, the performances at all levels took on a whole new dimension.  And, the 240 available slots were filled by April 30th – over a month earlier than 2010.  With great organization, a great trail, fantastic awards and a top-notch post race picnic – it’s no wonder that this is becoming a “must do” event on the Montana racing circuit.

The Wulfman would have been pleased to see all his people having such a great time out along the backbone of the continent.

A full complement of race results (cumulative, male, female, age group, age graded, etc.) can be found at  A good selection of race comments (and photos coming soon??) can be found on the Wulfman’s CDT 14K Trail Race Facebook page.  Make sure to check them out.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Getting Ready To Worship The Wulf

Wulfman’s CDT-14K

2011 Race Preview

So, who’s going to rule the divide this year?  Can Big Bird regain the overall title again this year and defend his odd-year crown?  Will some new faces to the event master the route from Pipestone to Homestake?  Will Bazz’s trail acumen and altitude training overcome the road speed of Sarah the flatlander?  Can the old men make up ½ of the top ten finishers?

In an event that has become known for hot and exciting racing in its short, 4-year history – 2011 looks to continue the trend.  Both the men’s and women’s races have some intriguing story lines.  So, without further adieu, let’s get to the preview.

Starting with the women – we look to have a real contrast in styles in the potential front runners.  The favorite role would have to go to Michelle Bazzanella (Bazz), with long-time connections to Helena & Butte.  She’s the 2010 champ (Homestake to Pipestone route) and has finished no lower than 3rd place in any of the first 3 editions of the race.  As the Muddy Buzzard’s #4 open women’s runner of the year, she’s a classic trail runner whose stride is perfect for the course ups and downs; and, she should have no problem with the altitude (varying between 6,360’ and 7,700’).  She’s already proven her trail mettle in 2011 with a solid 2nd place female finish at the Don’t Fence Me In 12K in Helena.

In contrast to Bazz the mudder, you have Sarah Graves the roadie (and the Buzzard’s #2 open women’s runner of the year for 2010).  With a pedigree that includes a 2:47 marathon PR and participation in the elite field of the Boston Marathon, Sarah has put out some top level performances at all distances from the mile to the marathon.  While she mostly sticks to the roads, her win at the 2010 Montana Cup shows that she can also hammer on the trails.  But, can she overcome the altitude and Bazz’s familiarity with the course?  And, will these two push each other to a new course record (1:04:10 set by Nicole Hunt in 2009) (which could mean a $150 pay day for hitting the sub-65:00 premium time and the CR)?

As exciting as the competition between these two could be – let’s not forget about some of the other runners.  Including Bazz, this year’s race includes 5 of the top-10 finishers from 2010.  Maurie McLaughlin of Butte finished 3rd last year; and, has the benefit of being altitude trained and familiar with the course.  Beth Shumate of Clancy quietly shows up at trail runs around the state and consistently finishes near the front.  Can she improve on her 5th place finish from 2010?  And, can all of these ladies hold off the charge from the younger crowd?  Bekah Kirtley (18) of Fromberg and Olivia Wood (16) of Anaconda finished 6th and 7th respectively last year.  Wood has the #12 all time performance on the N-S course and comes off a great season for the Copperhead XC & Track squads.  We also have a potential dark horse in Haley Chura of Atlanta.  Chura’s sister (Hannah) and mother (Elizabeth) of Gallatin Gateway were both top 15 finishers in the 2009 version of the N-S course.  Could they have given Haley some tips on the course and strategy??

And, let’s not forget about our “mature” ladies.  The over-40 race has some unique twists and turns of its own.  As the Buzzard’s 2010 Open Women’s Runner of the Year, Nicole Hunt would normally be a hands down favorite for the master’s title (if not the open title).  But, she’s currently in the second trimester of her 2nd pregnancy; and, she’s slowed down just ever so slightly.  Will she still be able to place near the top of the master’s category even while running for three (that’s right – Nicole & Ray are expecting twins!!!!)?

Or, will the N-S course’s #1 Age-Graded master, Elizabeth Chura of Gallatin Gateway, pull out the win.  We also have Demaris Taylor of Helena returning – having placed 13th overall in 2010.  And, let’s not forget Sherry Vogel of Butte.  Or, Billings’ own ageless wonder – Debbie Magilke.  The age-graded master’s placings should prove very interesting indeed.

The biggest fireworks of the day are likely to come at the front of the men’s race.  2010 champ and University of Montana steeplechaser is back to take a whack at the Pipestone to Homestake route.  Reynolds has got some young legs, which tend to be a help on the long downhill sections of the race.  And, his performances in the steeplechase show that he’s fit and fast.  Plus, the coordination and endurance that are necessary to run elite steeples tend to be a pretty big benefit on the trails.

Of course, he’ll have to contend with 2008 and 2009 Wulfman Champ and 2010 runner-up Thomas “Big Bird” Jodoin of Helena (the Buzzard’s 2010 #2 Male Runner of the Year).  Big Bird had a bit of an injury snafu at the AOH St. Pat’s Day Run in Anaconda in March.  But, as evidenced by his win at the Don’t Fence Me in 12K in mid-May, the hammy seems to be coming around and Thomas should be ready to go.  He’s also the most experienced on this course; and, should be ready to rock and roll.

The third leg of the Wulfman trifecta team is likely to be Jimmy “The General” Grant.  Much like Sarah Graves on the women’s side, Jimmy is known as more of a roadie.  But, he has been known to put a foot in the dirt on occasion.  On the road, he’s had a very solid last couple of years.  He was the Buzzard’s Male Runner of the Year in 2009 and # 3 in 2010.  Already this year he scored a big win with his 31:39 10K at the Missoula Riverbank Run.  And, he followed that up with a 38:24 12-K at Bloomsday to finish 32 overall (out of 50,000 +). 

But, wait – just like a TV infomercial – that’s not all.  Including Reynolds and Jodoin, 6 of the top 10 finishers from the 2010 Wulfman will return this year, and 10 of the top 15.  Plus, we have a new face in Christian Heck of Bozeman, 2008 3rd-placer Dewey Peacock of Bozeman, trail ace Brian Wieck of Helena, 2008 4th-placer Matt Edwards of Bozeman and youngster Josh Panasuk of Butte.

But the story within the story on the men’s side may very well be the shuffling of the old farts.  As it has been every year, the master’s field is looking to be deep and fast.  And, the sub-plot will be to see how many of the over 40 crowd can crack the overall top 10.  In 2008 and 2009, there were 2 masters in the top 10.  In 2010, there were 4 in the top 10 and 2 in the top 5.  Some of the best of Montana’s old men will be at the CDT-14K. 

41-year old Pat Judge of Helena is having a racing resurgence since turning 40.  His last 2 years have probably been amongst his best since Y2K.  The Muddy Buzzard’s #2 Master’s Runner of the Year, Pat will be running at the outside edge of his typical racing range.  And, he’s typically more of a road and track guy; but, solid performances at the Don’t Fence Me In 5-K and the Montana Cup show that Pat can also crank it up on the trails.

Mike Telling (42) of Dillon has a history of fast and furious racing at the Wulfman with overall placings of 2nd, 7th and 5th.  History would show that when Mike toes the line, he’s ready to race.  And, that’s doubly so when he races along the backbone of the continent.  As the 2010 # 3 runner on the Buzzard’s Master’s list, Telling clearly has the pedigree.

Jeff Braun of Butte, at 47, has had an incredible last couple of years on the racing scene – at a wide variety of distances and surfaces – good enough to rank as the Buzzard’s #5 Master of the year in 2010.  Can Jeff continue his string of fast finishes?  Living and training in Butte, Jeff will have altitude training in his ditty bag – together with an intimate knowledge of the CDT.

Kirk Keller, 50, of Three Forks has the #1 over-40 Age-Graded performance at the CDT-14K.  After some injuries in 2010, will Kirk be ready to return to form in 2K11?  He’s been in the top 10 overall before – can he find that magic again.

But, the biggest factor in the master’s race could be the presence of Bozeman’s Scott Creel (48 – and just days away from B-day 49).  Scott has been on a bit of a racing hiatus in the last couple of years while he focused on his wildlife research, his kids, and some other outdoor pursuits.  But, he had a successful return to the track in February with his 3rd place finish at the Montana Men’s Master’s Mile (M4) in 4:42.  And, as the course record holder at the Bridger Ridge Run, Scott’s trail racing prowess and pain threshold are legendary.  If Scott’s at the starting line, look for him to be ready to hammer.

So, lot’s of excitement is brewing as we approach the 4th Annual Wulfman CDT-14K.  And, lots of questions will be answered on the morning of the 18th.  But, a few things we can be pretty certain of.  The racing will be hot and fast, the race management will be exemplary, the post race festival will be trail running’s best social event of the spring, and each and every one or the competitors will get their money’s worth.

The Buzzard is circling the skies above Butte and just waiting for the time to swoop in and take part in the suffer fest along the divide.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard